People who “feel like they belong are more productive, motivated, and engaged,” according to a study by Ernst & Young. Beyond work performance, feeling like you belong is a basic human need that’s vital to our emotional health. In fact, the study reported that a lack of belonging or “exclusion” is necessarily a form of workplace bullying.
Exclusion in the workplace can take many forms. Remember when Janet used to always go to happy hour after work with Jim and Bill, but they would never invite anyone else from the office? That’s exclusion. Oh, and that time Jerry only picked his deskmates to join the staff meeting. When coworkers are left out of office events, meetings, or even important emails, they can start to feel excluded.
If an employee doesn’t feel like they are trusted or respected by their peers, it can take an emotional toll, just like other forms of workplace bullying. Acts of exclusion can lead to employees not feeling comfortable voicing their opinion or contributing to the team. When they feel left out, they slowly stop participating, which leads to fewer bonds with teammates and less involvement at work.
Reports show that women struggle the most with feelings of exclusion in the workplace. Among women surveyed by Ernst & Young, 61 percent considered exclusion as a form of workplace bullying. Also, this mindset seems to be shifting. Millennials are less likely to view exclusion as a bully trait compared to Gen Xers and baby boomers. These statistics could be the result of a changing work dynamic and company culture.
The research states those who feel like they belong are “3.5 times more likely to contribute to their full, innovative potential.” So, not only does exclusion take an emotional toll, it also affects job performance. These repercussions often lead to missed opportunities for bonuses, promotions, and career advancement.
Eliminating exclusion in the workplace is a team effort. Every member of the organization should strive to include others. Create a culture of teamwork and participation. Enable every team member to thrive in the workplace and reach their full potential. Employers can discourage exclusion by implementing strategic workplace tactics such as:
Create an open communication policy. Help everyone feel comfortable sharing negative thoughts and feelings. Get to know your office mates and understand each person’s work style to improve collaboration.
Each team member should make a conscious effort to include their cohorts. Note projects and weekly activities that allow for collaboration. Follow the RACI approach, shared below, to engage your team:
Responsible: The person responsible for performing the task.
Accountable: The person accountable for final decisions and ownership of the work.
Consulted: Those who need to be consulted before a decision is made.
Informed: Those who must be informed when a decision is made or work is completed.
Rotate responsibilities to different team members to avoid favoritism.
Get to know the people you work with. Create opportunities to develop new friendships by inviting coworkers to lunch or after-hours events. Build relationships with everyone at the office to combat exclusion in the workplace. After all, it’s more fun to work with friends, rather than strangers.